Richard Willis's Blog

First for local news and first for comment

Norwich North By-Election

Norwich 2The Government has today moved the writ for the Norwich North by-election which will take place next month on 23rd July.

The poll was triggered by the decision of sitting MP Dr Ian Gibson to resign from the Commons when the Labour Party barred him from standing again at the coming General Election. There are rumours that he may contest the by-election as an independent candidate.

 

 

The candidates named so far are:

          Conservative – Chloe Smith (the favourite, aged 27 and has been the candidate for 18 months)

          Labour – Chris Ostrowski (newly selected candidate who works for John Lewis –somewhat ironic as the “John Lewis list” was the first controversy of the MP expenses scandal)

          Lib Dem – April Pond (third choice candidate for the Lib Dems after former MP Martin Bell and the local newspaper editor turned the Lib Dems down. Until a few days ago she was the Lib Dem PPC for Norfolk seat of Broadland)

          Green – Cllr Robert Read (a local Councillor who has high hopes following a strong performance locally in the Euro elections)

          UKIP – Glenn Tingle (ex Royal Army Medical Corps)

          BNP – Rev Robert West (a former East Midlands Euro candidate)

          Independent – Craig Murray (former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, standing as an anti-sleaze candidate)

          Libertarian Party – Thomas Burridge (aged 18 will be the youngest candidate to stand for Parliament since the age was reduced from 21)

At the 2005 General Election Dr Gibson had a majority of 5,459 over the Conservatives. However, there is speculation that Labour could be forced into third place behind the Conservatives and Green Party, with the Lib Dems forced into a humiliating fourth place.

The 2005 result was:

                        Labour             21,097 (44.9%)

                        Conservative     15,638 (33.2%)

                        Lib Dem             7,616 (16.2%)

                        Green                1,252 (2.7%)

                        UKIP                  1,122 (2.4%)

                        Ind                       308 (0.7%)

Naturally I wish Chloe Smith every success and as I have done in almost every English and Welsh by-election, I will be going up there to help out.

Norwich North

June 30, 2009 Posted by | National | 6 Comments

Economy in a far Worse Recession than Expected

recession1Figures released today by the Office of National Statistics show that the economy has been contracting for longer and to a much greater extent than previously thought. The annualised rate of shrinkage of the economy has been revised down to -4.9% from the previous -4.1%. The ONS has also revised down its figure of zero growth in the second quarter of last year to -0.1% meaning that officially the recession started earlier than previously thought (recession being defined as two successive quarters of negative growth). It has also stated that in the first quarter of 2009 the economy shrank by 2.4%, the fastest fall in 50 years.

When the Chancellor made his prediction that the economy would shrink by a whopping 3.5% this year he was widely derided by independent forecasters who mostly predicted that it would be worse than 4%. However, even they have now been shown to be optimistic. The only thing that could save the Chancellor’s bacon is swift and rapid upturn but that seems as unlikely as ever.

We are now 14 months into what looks likely to be the worst recession in at least 50 years and there will be three major consequences of this worsening economic news:

  1. Unemployment will rise higher than the Government has anticipated. Unemployment is a lagging indicator which tends to continue to rise even after economic recovery has begun.
  2. Tax revenues will be significantly lower than the Chancellor has anticipated and social security spending will be higher, leading to a bigger public sector deficit and the risk that the UKs status as a top-rated borrower will be down-graded.
  3. There will therefore be an even worse debt crisis and the need for deeper public spending cuts which will damage the recovery that will inevitably come.

Because of the Government’s reckless spending policies we are in danger of a prolonged and deep recession, and a burden of debt that will take decades to repay. The numbers are so bad that I can see the Government preferring to call an autumn General Election rather than have to go through a public sector spending round in November and a budget in March, both of which would be very damaging and painful.

The truth is that once again Labour have near bankrupted this country and their professed solution is to try to spend their way out of it.

As I have posted before, James Callaghan had it right when he said to the Labour Party Conference:

“We used to think that you could spend your way out of a recession and increase employment by cutting taxes and boosting Government spending.

I tell you in all candour that that option no longer exists and, in so far as it ever did exist, it only worked on each occasion since the war by injecting a bigger dose of inflation into the economy, followed by a higher level of unemployment as the next step.”

James Callaghan – Prime Minister 1976-1979

June 30, 2009 Posted by | National | Leave a comment

New ComRes Poll – Tory lead cut to 11%

comres3

 

 

There is a new ComRes poll reported tonight for tomorrow’s Independent which has a sharp narrowing of the Conservative lead to just (just!) 11%:

            Conservative              36% (down 3%)

            Labour                       25% (up 3%) 

            Lib Dem                      19% (up 1%) 

ComRes has been the most erratic of the pollsters in recent months with huge variations in the Conservative and Labour shares and so I would not put much store by them alone.

June 29, 2009 Posted by | Polls | 1 Comment

Kennet Meadows – The Truth is Out There

Kennet MeadowsIn my earlier article about last Tuesday’s Council meeting I described the reaction to my invitation to Cllr Ruhemann to rebut claims that his stance on Kennet Meadows had been less than consistent over the years. Whilst two of his Labour colleagues leapt to his defence, Cllr Ruhemann side-stepped the question, preferring instead to attack bloggers.

For those who have not followed the detail of this debate let me enlighten you. Cllr Ruhemann has made one of the platforms on which he stands for election his unswerving opposition to any development plans for Kennet Meadows, which serve as a flood plain for the Kennet River. Under Labour government pressure for more housing in the South East, Prudential came up with a proposal for 7,500 homes on the meadows south of Reading. It is also worth noting that while Cllr Ruhemann is a Reading Borough Councillor, the meadows are largely in West Berkshire Council’s domain.

After recent intensive lobbying by West Berkshire Council (Conservative controlled), supported by Reading Borough Council (now hung, previously Labour), the Secretary of State has removed the meadows from the list of Strategic Development Areas. This is a very welcome reprieve for the meadows. However, in order to preserve them against future development further protection will be required. That is why Conservatives were very happy to support Cllr Ruhemann’s motion to “put the Core Area” of the meadows into a trust. Note the words though – “Core Area”.

That does not rule out the possibility of some development and there lies the allegation of inconsistency. Indeed when the proposal for large scale development was first made Cllr Ruhemann did not rule out partial development of the meadows. As former Reading East Labour MP Jane Griffiths has pointed out, the ruling Labour Group on Reading Borough Council was very interested in the possibility of some development of the meadows. In their 2002 statement both Ruhemann and the then Lead Councillor for Planning, Cllr John Howarth, made carefully worded statements that did not rule out or oppose any development on the meadows. One of the campaigners for the protection of the meadows has contacted me and made it clear that they want the entire meadows protected.

I do not deny that Cllr Ruhemann has campaigned for years against large-scale development of Kennet Meadows but the evidence suggests that he has always been prepared to see some of it built on, as long as “the core” was preserved. That is not the same position as was represented at the Council meeting last Tuesday by Cllr Ruhemann’s colleagues. Local campaigners for the meadows should be aware that Labour’s support for their cause is partial. Maybe that is the only way to save “the core” of the meadows but if so Cllr Ruhemann and his colleagues should be open about this with local people.

June 29, 2009 Posted by | Local | 3 Comments

Nailing Labour’s Lies – 2

labour1There seems to be a view in Labour HQ these days that if you tell a lie often enough people will believe it. That view appears to have reached Reading where ex- Labour Councillor (and recent Labour candidate) Helen Hathaway has made the statement in the Reading Post that Reading West Conservative PPC Alok Sharma “lives in Wokingham”. This is completely untrue.

Alok lives with his wife and family in Reading Borough, where he has resided for many years now. And for the avoidance of any further doubt, Alok grew up in the Reading area and went to school here as well.

That is in sharp contrast to the newly selected Labour PPC for Reading west who is a Councillor in the London Borough of Walthamstow, and the Lib Dem PPC who lives in Oxfordshire and is a Councillor there.

June 28, 2009 Posted by | Local | 4 Comments

New YouGov Poll – Conservative Lead up to 16%

yougov1

 

 

 

There is a new YouGov poll for today’s Sunday People newspaper which again shows changes within the margin of error:

            Conservative              40% (up 2%)

            Labour                       24% (down 1%) 

            Lib Dem                      17% (down 1%) 

However, Conservatives will be pleased to be back at 40% and there is still a large “others” figure of 19% to unwind. According to the paper, that would lead to a massive Conservative majority of 137 seats at the next election.

June 28, 2009 Posted by | Polls | Leave a comment

Today is Armed Forces Day

armed-forces-day-twitter-backgroundToday across the country local communities joined together to celebrate the magnificent contribution made by our Armed Forces. Unlike Remembrance Day in November the focus of this day is very much on those currently and recently serving, although many veterans will participate and will receive veterans badges at local ceremonies.

For some reason, here in Reading the main event will be tomorrow (Sunday 28th June) in Forbury Gardens from 12 noon to 5pm. will open with a performance given by The Band of the Corps of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers from the bandstand at 12 noon. The Band of the Corps of Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers appear by kind permission of the Director of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (Army). Other musical entertainment will include a Dame Vera Lynn tribute from Diane James from 1pm to 2pm and the Reading Central Band of the Salvation Army will be playing between 2.30pm and 4pm.

An array of fundraising, information and recruiting stands relating to all aspects of the Armed Forces will fill the gardens. There will also be demonstrations and displays from representatives of REME Garrison Arborfield and HQ Company 7 Rifles. There will be something for children too with medal making workshops, dog tag making activities, an assault course, balloon modelling and face painting.

Veterans BadgeThe event will also incorporate a Veterans Badge Presentation Ceremony at 4pm. Twenty veterans have been selected from those who applied to receive the badge at the Forbury Gardens event and remaining applicants will be invited to receive their badge at the Mayor’s Parlour later in the year.

Outside of the Forbury Gardens, the REME Garrison Arborfield will host a static vehicle display in Broad Street and The Band of the Corps of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers will be performing on The Oracle Riverside, before returning to the Forbury Gardens for the closing ceremony at 4.30pm.

List of Reading’s Armed Forces Day participants follows:

– Royal Engineers Association
– Reading Royal British Legion
– RGBW Reginmental Association (Reading Branch)
– SSAFA Forces Help
– SSAFA Forces Help (Reading)
– Reading Sea Cadets
– RBL Gurkhas Association
– Royal Marines Association
– TRBL Legion in the Community
– Royal Naval Association
– Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regimental Association Reading Branch (Berkshire & DERR Old Comrades)
– REME Garrison Arborfield
– Age Concern
– Royal County of Berkshire Army Cadet Force (Caversham Detachment)
– Army Armed Forces Careers Office
– Duchess of Kent House Charity
– British Red Cross
– Caversham Royal British Legion
– Royal Air Forces Association
– Royal Army Service Corps & Royal Corps Transport
– Burma Star Association
– HQ Company 7 Rifles
– C & J Medals
– The Coldstream Guards Association
– Grenadier Guards Association
– Household Division Association
– 1st Battalion Irish Guards

Come along to the Forbury Gardens in Reading tomorrow and have a great afternoon out.

AFD-Logo_large

June 27, 2009 Posted by | Defence, Local | 3 Comments

Reading Borough Council Meeting 23 June

rbc-hex1It was an interesting Council meeting on Tuesday night. It began at 6.30pm and finished at about 11.10pm. However, in between there were vary elements of routine, politicking and some abusive conduct. Throughout the new Mayor Cllr Fred Pugh conducted himself supremely well.

The meeting began with a petition from residents of Luscinia View in Abbey Ward about worsened bus services, followed by questions from the public on NI35 – the government measure which is intended to counter “violent extremism” but which has engendered much ill feeling in the Muslim community.

The second part of the meeting was questions from Councillors. Of the 10 questions tabled 7 were from Conservative Councillors and only three from the Lib Dems. There were none at all from Labour Councillors. This is an opportunity for Councillors to question the administration about anything relevant to Reading and is an ideal chance for Opposition Councillors to seek information or explanation. I had three questions down:

  1. I asked how many directly employed Council staff have salary packages worth in excess of £100,000, listed by post. The answer was given in ranges as follows:

    Chief Executive                                              £136,500-£154,101

    Director of Education and Childrens Servs           £90,651-£119,979

    Director of Housing and Community Care           £90,651-£119,979

    Director of Environment, Culture & Sport           £90,651-£114,979

    Director of Resources                                     £90,651-£114,979

In addition two head teachers receive salary packages in excess of £100,000.

 2.    I asked for details of trips to non-UK destinations undertaken by Cllrs and Council Officers at public expense. The details are:

    Jan 07 – Cape Town – 2 Officers – £2,571 – Risk Assessment for youth trip

    Feb / Mar 07 – Dublinx2 – 2 Officers – £1,426.00 – Recruiting

    Mar 07 – Nice – 1 Officer/1 Cllr – £2,500 – Promote Reading

    Apr 07 – Istanbul – 1 Officer – £21 – Seminar

    May 07 – Dusseldorf – 1 Officer/ Mayor – £202 – Town Twinning

    Jun 07 – Brussels – 1 Officer – £201 – Seminar

    Jul 07 – Jamaica – 1 Officer – £619 – Assessment for child placement

    Jul 07 – Ireland – 1 Officer – £173 – View Civic Offices

    Dec 07 – Dusseldorf – Mayor – £189 – Town Twinning

    Feb 08 – Los Angeles – 2 Officers – £900 – Recruiting

    Mar 08 – Nice – 1 Officer – £500 – Promote Reading

    May 08 – Portugal – 2 Officers – £1,260 – Accompany elderly client home

    Nov 08 – Italy – 1 Cllr – £494 – Transport Conference

    Apr 09 – Los Angeles – 2 Officers – £1,200 – Recruiting

3.    I asked why the Leader of the Council thought that the people of Reading had rejected Labour at the recent elections. I got the expected wriggling about “unique circumstances” and a dig at the Lib Dems who came fourth, as well as a dig at the Conservatives leaving the EPP in the European Parliament. Sadly we ran out of time so I only got the written answer and could not ask my supplementary.

As well as my questions, Conservative Cllr Tim Harris asked some searching questions about care homes following the sad death of a resident who froze in her room, Cllr Terry Byrne asked about the parking permit system which elicited the information that the scheme runs at a £120,000 loss and that £7,000 had been paid to a consultant to review the scheme. Cllr Tom Stanway asked about new Payment Services Regulations which come into effect on 1 Nov this year.

That is a real opposition at work, asking questions and probing for information that some Lead Councillors would perhaps rather not disclose.

The meeting then considered a contentious report on NI35 “Preventing Violent Extremism in Reading”. There was a long debate in which numerous Conservative Councillors spoke about how misguided this whole project was, as it singles out specifically the Muslim community for mention and targeting. There were passionate speeches from my ward colleagues Mark Ralph and Jamie Chowdhary, as well as Tom Stanway and Azam Janjua. Conservatives moved an amendment that would require the whole scheme to be brought to the December CCEA Scrutiny Panel for a detailed review of the funding and the aims of the Reading initiative. We did not want to stop some of the good work that is being done but felt that it should tackle all extremism and not just Muslims. Labour looked very uncomfortable throughout as it is their Government’s initiative but I imagine many of their members agree with us on this. The Lib Dems did their usual tap dance of agreeing with much of what we said without indicating their position. There was a minor amendment to the wording of Cllr Mark Ralph’s amendment before it was passed with Conservative, Labour and Independent support. The Lib Dems sat on the fence again and abstained. The final vote on the amended motion went the same way.

The meeting then considered uncontentious reports on the new system of Comprehensive Area Assessment (replacing Comprehensive Performance Assessment); the Children and Young People Plan 2009-12; The Reading Learning Disability Partnership Strategy for 2009-14; and the provisional Draft Final Accounts for 2008/09. Unless my memory fails me all items were passed with all-party support.

The last part of the meeting was the motions, and that is where much of the political heat was expended. It is another opportunity for Councillors to set the agenda for debate and force Lead Councillors to discuss issues of concern, or just good ideas. There were two Conservative motions and one from Labour; none from the Lib Dems.

Conservative Councillor Terry Byrne moved a motion suggesting that the Council investigate installing micro-generation wind turbines installed on the top of Council-owned blocks of flats. Cllr Byrne highlighted Labour’s plans to charge residents for services such as lighting in communal areas and suggested that this was a way to offset those costs. Labour moved an amendment to add reference to other renewable energy sources and the amendment and amended motion were passed with all–party support.

Labour Councillor Pete Ruhemann moved a motion acknowledging that Kennet Meadows was not now to be included as a Strategic Development Area following a decision from the Secretary of State and representations from Reading and West Berkshire Councils. This was welcomed by all parties and the motion was passed. I asked about reports that Cllr Ruhemann had not been as consistent on this matter as he liked to portray himself and suggested that he could confirm or rebut the suggestion. Two Labour Councillors sprang to his defence, stating that he has always wanted to save the meadows but Cllr Ruhemann sidestepped the question with an attack on this blog and others.

Finally Conservative Councillor Mike Townend moved a detailed motion commending the voluntary sector but requiring that where they deal with vulnerable children or adults that the Council acts to ensure that appropriate Criminal Records Bureau checks are carried out. An amendment was moved by Labour that essentially said the same thing but phrased differently. The debate was interrupted by an extraordinary intervention by Labour Councillor Peter Jones who represents Norcot ward but lives on the other side of Reading in Park Ward. For some bizarre reason best known to himself he stated that Park Ward Conservative Councillor Wazir Hussain did not hold any surgeries to meet his residents. This is a complete lie and the Conservative benches erupted in outrage. Eventually after several requests from the Mayor and a threatened walkout, Cllr P Jones grudgingly withdrew his comment together with an abusive comment he made about another Councillor. The debate resumed with all parties agreeing to the Labour amendment.

Just when we thought the end was in sight, up jumped Labour Cllr Richard Stainthorp who proposed another amendment that would make every Councillor have to have a CRB check. Since the system was designed to check those who work with vulnerable adults and children, and who have one-to-one access, there was some bemusement as to his intentions. I spoke against this proposal as it is unnecessary since all Cllrs who work directly with children and vulnerable residents are checked anyway. I was supported by the Lib Dem leader and other Conservative and Lib Dem Cllrs and it was defeated. The amended motion was then passed with all party support.

Once again almost every report or motion ended up with agreement between all parties. Only on the NI35 report did Conservatives and Labour vote through a Conservative amendment with the Lib Dems abstaining presumably because they couldn’t make up their minds!

June 26, 2009 Posted by | Local | 9 Comments

BREAKING NEWS – Michael Jackson has Died

michael-jacksonReports in the LA Times and on numerous websites suggest that Michael Jackson has died aged 50 after suffering a suspected heart attack. Apparently he was found at home not breathing and was taken to hospital.

UPDATE: The LA Coroner has now confirmed Michael’s death to CNN.

 This is very sad and shocking news. I was due to go and see Michael in concert at the O2 Arena, London on 28 July.

 

June 25, 2009 Posted by | International | 5 Comments

New YouGov Poll – Conservative Lead at 13%

yougov1

 

 

 

There is a new YouGov poll for tomorrow’s Telegraph which shows a statistically unchanged position. All changes are within the margin of error:

          Conservative            38% (down 2%)

            Labour                        25% (up 1%) 

            Lib Dem                      18% (no change) 

This poll is consistent with most recent polls with Conservatives in the high 30’s and Labour in the low to mid twenties. There is still a high “others” share of 19% which suggests that the Euro elections effect has still to unwind.

June 25, 2009 Posted by | Polls | 1 Comment

Labour’s Emerging Hidden Agenda of Cuts and Extra Charges

labour1lib-dem21Reading Borough Council’s budget was passed in February by agreement between Labour and the Lib Dems. Despite those two parties imposing a 3.99% increase in the Council Tax many of us in the Conservative Group could see that the numbers did not stack up. That is partly why we refused to be too specific as to what we would do in office until nearer to the next local elections and until we had a better “look at the books”.

It is hardly surprising then to discover that Labour is now beginning a process of secret service cuts and increases in charges. Many members of the Labour Group are deeply unhappy with what their own party is planning, which is probably why I have been given access to information that details the plans and their discomfort. I wonder what local Lib Dems will think.

CUTS – consultants have been brought in to examine a new structure and branding for the Reading Museum and Town Hall over the next five years. They have recommended a new management and staffing structure that would lead to savings of £293,500 in the first full year. The plans would include closure of the 3B’s bar in the Old Town Hall (saving £83k) and ending the Town Hall Film Theatre season (saving £13k). There will inevitably be redundancies as a result of these measures and the restructuring.

These proposals were not part of the Labour / Lib Dem budget and will therefore produce additional savings this year and into future years. I have not been told the costs of the consultants or the redundancy costs.

CHARGES – as part of the 2006 business case for retaining the Council’s housing stock it was decided to introduce service charges. The Council is now looking at introducing charges for lighting in communal areas of Council flats as “an additional element to the weekly rent charge” from November 2009.

The Labour Group is clearly very nervous of the second element of charges for cleaning of communal areas, since it originally proposed to introduce these immediately AFTER the next local elections, i.e. in June 2010. However, even this date has now been postponed pending further consultation.

It is estimated that around 65% of tenants affected by the plans will not have to pay the charge as it will be paid by the benefit system (so that’s alright then!). Of the remaining 35% “an unknown number may be passported into the benefit system because of the introduction of the charge”. In other words for the majority the cost will be picked up by the hard-working tax-payer who has to pay for all their own utility bills as well.

Labour and the Lib Dems were vocal in their condemnation of the Conservatives for our refusal to give them targets they could attack with their usual line of “Tory cuts”, however, it is becoming apparent that their coalition budget was a fraud on the electorate. Just as at national level Labour locally are being exposed for their plans to cut spending on services and increase taxes / charges. On 4th June the public rejected both parties decisively and installed new Conservative Councillors in their hundreds across England. Roll on the next local elections in Reading next May.

June 25, 2009 Posted by | Local | 6 Comments

Exposing Labour’s Lies

The Conservative Party has today launched this very simple but effective ad:

June 24, 2009 Posted by | National | Leave a comment

Revolutionary new textile armour unveiled by MOD

Ridgback-armoured-british-armyA ground-breaking new armour system and a fleet of new armoured vehicles that will provide better protection on the frontline in Afghanistan were unveiled by the Ministry of Defence at the defence equipment event called DVD today.

The revolutionary, textile-based TARIAN vehicle armour system will give lightweight protection against RPGs, in place of the current bar armour that is fitted to vehicles such as Mastiff and Ridgback (pictured left).

More than 20 sets of TARIAN have been ordered and are in use on operations in Afghanistan, with half of them fitted to the Heavy Equipment Transporters. The armour has been developed with Dorset-based AMSAFE in Bridport and will mean the weight saved on armour can be applied elsewhere on the vehicle.

CCoyoteDVD also sees the unveiling of the Wolfhound, Husky and Coyote (right) Tactical Support Vehicles (TSV), the first time these newly-purchased trucks have been seen in public. More than 400 of these brand new vehicles are currently being manufactured across the UK, with delivery to training units expected later this year. The new TSV fleet will be used to accompany frontline patrols and carry essential combat supplies such as water and ammunition.

The equipment show also saw a taste of frontline action as members of the 1st Battalion The Rifles and 29 Commando Regiment RA simulated a battle group in action on the frontline. They were fully equipped with personal body armour, rifles and the new Husky and Ridgback vehicles and even called in air support from Apache and Merlin helicopters.

Both units have recently returned from frontline operations, with 1st Battalion the Rifles helping to mentor the Afghan National Army and 29 Cdo Regiment RA based at Musa Qala.

DVD is an equipment showcase which highlights the importance of diverse areas such as fuel delivery, clothing, food and vehicles that have been bought or upgraded under the Urgent Operational Requirement programme.

The TARIAN armour system is the result of a significant amount of research and development between DSTL and industry to AMSAFE in Bridport, Dorset. The system defeats the same threats as the existing Bar Armour, but at a much reduced weight which allows improvements to the vehicle’s protection elsewhere. Testing has shown that TARIAN is very robust and more than capable of withstanding battlefield wear and tear whilst allowing considerable weight savings and functioning as intended. If it does get damaged it is very easy to replace.

husky-410pxHusky (left), a medium armoured support vehicle, is manufactured by Navistar Defence, with Malvern based company Dytechna carrying out the integration work will form the main bulk of the TSVs and will carry out roles where heavy vehicles, like Mastiff, cannot be used. 

The other 2 TSV categories are: Heavy – Wolfhound, based on a Cougar 6×6 flatbed, manufactured and integrated through the Integrated Survivability Technologies Joint Venture between US company Force Protection Industries Inc and Coventry based NP Aerospace,  will support and re-supply our Mastiffs in the highest threat areas; Light – Coyote, based on a 6×6 derivative of the Jackal designed by Supacat Ltd and manufactured by Plymouth based Babcock Marine, will support our go-anywhere, high-mobility Jackals across the harsh terrain in Afghanistan.

June 24, 2009 Posted by | Defence | Leave a comment

New MORI Poll – Labour Just 2% Ahead of Lib Dems

mori-logo1

 

 

 

There was a new Ipsos MORI poll reported today while I was at work and then at a Council meeting. The party ratings are:

            Conservative              38% (down 1%)

            Labour                       21% (down 4%) 

            Lib Dem                      19% (no change)

            Others                        22%  

There is still a large “others” figure following the Euro elections and I have not yet seen a breakdown of that 22%.

June 23, 2009 Posted by | Polls | Leave a comment

A New Force in Europe

Euro ParlAlmost lost in the news of the Speaker election yesterday was the announcement that the Conservatives in the European Parliament have successfully formed a new grouping. It will be the fourth largest group in the Parliament with 55 MEPs from eight countries.

In forming the new group David Cameron has fulfilled one of his campaign pledges despite many commentators predicting that he would back-track or fail to find enough palatable allies. As it stands the new Conservatives and Reformists Group is a model of moderation and rationality by European standards and comprises the following members:

            British Conservatives                                      26

            Polish Law & Justice Party                              15

            Czech Civic Democratic Party                            9

            Dutch Christian Union                                      1

            Latvian National Independence Movement          1

            Hungarian Democratic Forum                            1

            Belgium Lijst Dedecker                                     1

            Finish Centre Party                                          1

I understand that there are at least two more significant groups of MEPs that are being courted and may join in the next few months. According to Conservative Home the new group has already received an application to join from Waldemar Tomaszewski an MEP from the Polish minority in Lithuania.

The new Conservatives and Reformists Group have all signed up to the following declaration:

“CONSCIOUS OF THE URGENT NEED TO REFORM THE EU ON THE BASIS OF EUROREALISM, OPENNESS, ACCOUNTABILITY AND DEMOCRACY, IN A WAY THAT RESPECTS THE SOVEREIGNTY OF OUR NATIONS AND CONCENTRATES ON ECONOMIC RECOVERY, GROWTH AND COMPETITIVENESS, THE EUROPEAN CONSERVATIVES AND REFORMISTS GROUP SHARES THE  FOLLOWING PRINCIPLES:

1. Free enterprise, free and fair trade and competition, minimal regulation, lower taxation, and small government as the ultimate catalysts for individual freedom and personal and national prosperity.
2. Freedom of the individual, more personal responsibility and greater democratic accountability.
3. Sustainable, clean energy supply with an emphasis on energy security.
4. The importance of the family as the bedrock of society.
5. The sovereign integrity of the nation state, opposition to EU federalism and a renewed respect for true subsidiarity.
6. The overriding value of the transatlantic security relationship in a revitalised NATO, and support for young democracies across Europe.
7. Effectively controlled immigration and an end to abuse of asylum procedures.
8. Efficient and modern public services and sensitivity to the needs of both rural and urban communities.
9. An end to waste and excessive bureaucracy and a commitment to greater transparency and probity in the EU institutions and use of EU funds.
10. Respect and equitable treatment for all EU countries, new and old, large and small.”  

There have been the predictable attacks from the Lib Dem and Labour parties and one or two Europhile Conservatives. These completely ignore some of the bizarre partners that they cohabit with e.g. Labour’s former Communist allies in the Socialist Group and the Lib Dem allies in the Latvia First Party who have a rabidly homophobic platform. Former Conservative MEP critics like Caroline Jackson were also very content to sit with Mussolini’s grand-daughter in the European People’s Party.

I am delighted with the new grouping, which at last means that my party is supporting in Europe the policies it espouses in the United Kingdom. It could never be right to be so closely affiliated to the EPP whose federalist policies were anathema to most British Conservatives. It also means that Roger Helmer and Dan Hannan, who were expelled by the EPP, can now be leading players in a new, united and euro-sceptic grouping.

June 23, 2009 Posted by | International | 1 Comment